Piracy as capitalism at work (part 1)

i’m writing this on my girlfriend’s laptop, which has the left shift key broken. apologies for the lack of caps, but smart people can read english without such an archaic tool.


i hold piracy a subject near and dear to my heart. i follow copyright conversations in detail, especially when my mind is working at full capacity (not during school breaks!). i will state outright that my sympathies are with the copyright violators. i state this bias even in the awareness that i plan to work in an industry whose income trickles (book publishing is not particularly lucrative) only from sources of intellectual property and that i myself am currently generating and plan to continue generating such sources: all of the creative work on this blog was birthed in the hope that it would be remixed or shared. (i also understand that a blog and a book are two very different things.)

what one would see, should one attempt to engage this cultural conversation, is a series of ethical attacks between those in power and those unthreading the power. i would like to break this strand of conversation, for as any reader of alistair macintyre’s after virtue (or any watcher of modern politics) would know, moral arguments are no longer the means by which people reach stasis or compromise but are merely one process in a set of processes meant to elongate engagement in order to put off reaching stasis or compromise.

the primary tool for nipping this rhetorical weed should be capitalism, except that the piracy movement is so drowned by psuedo-communist propaganda  that to speak in terms of practicality about it might seem an insult to the fanatics. but let us speak seriously: the eighteen million (and growing) users of file-sharing services do not think of communism specifically when they download any given file; rather, the great majority will think of entertainment or at least the delay of boredom. they download either because it is easier or cheaper than locating the media by another means. that is, file sharing is popular from a user standpoint because it is practical.

i would like to use a paraphrase from one of my favorite new york times articles to put the conversation in immediate perspective. business decisions are not moral decisions. we allow, via capitalism, businesses certain leeway in regards to tools reserved from them in the past in order to bolster their financial prowess. a business is never under moral attack, even were the psuedo-communistic rhetoric to work in full sway, which it never will. only the pirates can lose to moral attacks, but they are so popular now that they won’t. to paraphrase another favored source, CEO of the MPAA as caught in this documentary, the MPAA’s role is not to kill piracy for it will never die; their role is to hinder as much as possible the consumer from using pirate sources.

i therefore argue from a business perspective that piracy endures because it is emminently practical: the end-user recognizes it as such and the arch-rival specifically names the goal as hindrance, not victory. Piracy is a capitalistic outcome to the problem of availability even despite the pseudo-communistic propaganda offered by its most vocal and energetic proponents. The question is why capitalism is being outlawed rather than embraced in this economic environment.

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